Carl Platou considered every day a gift after he returned in 1945 from the South Pacific. Of his unit of 100 Marine paratroopers on Leyte Island, he was one of only 10 survivors.
A spirit of joyful gratitude stayed with Platou through a long lifetime of leadership that ended Tuesday, when he died of cancer at age 88.
Platou will be remembered as the builder of the Fairview Hospital system and, until only a few months ago, the fundraising maven of the University of Minnesota Medical School. He'll also be remembered by an amazing number of people he encountered as a personal friend. He had a knack for making everyone he met feel special.
Like so many veterans of World War II horrors, Platou was reluctant to talk about what he had experienced. Only late in life did he speak about the screams of American POWs he would hear from Japanese camps in the night while he hid nearby. To his credit, he took part in the Minnesota Historical Society's oral history project about the Greatest Generation, so that those hard-to-relate stories can belong to history.
Now, so does he. But, fittingly, his name has been placed on a plaza outside the University of Minnesota Biomedical Discovery District, the research hub whose promise for Minnesota's future may be exceeded only by Platou's ambition for it. It's a place that aims to give many more people the gift Carl had received -- the gift of more days, and the chance to do something of value with them.